JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - In a move to improve awareness and anticipate potential accidents following the crash of AirAsia flight QZ8501, Indonesia's Transportation Ministry has imposed mandatory briefings for pilots from flight operation officers (FOO) prior to departures.
"The transportation minister has authorised the policy and it is now mandatory for pilots in any airline to do so. We spot checked at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (on Saturday) and we found that airlines already implement the policy," the ministry's acting director general for air transportation, Djoko Murjatmodjo, told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.
Speaking through his advisor Hadi M. Djuraid, Transportation Minister Ignasius Jonan, who during an inspection on Friday found no such briefing took place before flight QZ8501, said that such meetings would keep pilots informed of possible emergency decisions that they might have to make while flying their respective routes.
"By doing so, pilots will receive a complete picture about their respective flights from FOOs, including how to make emergency decisions with regard to possible weather challenges that they might have to encounter en route to their destinations," Jonan said on Sunday.
Jonan added that the policy was an imperative for both domestic and international flights across the country.
AirAsia flight QZ8501, carrying 162 people, en route to Singapore from Indonesia's second-biggest city, Surabaya, in East Java, was officially announced missing two and a half hours after it took off at 5.36 am local time on Dec 28.
Victims as well as debris of the plane were first spotted two days later in Karimata Strait, which separates The Belitung and Kalimantan islands.
Aviation expert and former investigator at the National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) Ruth Hanna Simatupang applauded Jonan for what she called "awakening the long-forgotten policy in the country's chaotic aviation system".
"Nothing's new about the policy, it is a standard that has been applied regularly in the world. It is just one of the problems in the jungle of our aviation system. There are a lot of problems that need to be fixed in our aviation system. What Jonan did is just a reminder to apply the already existing policy that is not being implemented," Hanna told the Post on Sunday.
She said that during the briefing, which takes no more than 20 minutes, FOOs would also give all necessary documents such as weather reports for pilots to study.
"After that pilots will make their flight plan then submit it to FOOs for second thoughts or suggestions. Later, the FOOs will submit the discussed flight plan to the appointed air traffic control," she said.
She further said that the Transportation Ministry must deploy more inspectors to ensure that the policy would be implemented seriously by airlines in the field.
"The most important thing is the ministry should install inspectors who will say no to bribes at airports. During my experience as an investigator, there were cases where the approval to fly from aviation authorities to airlines was given through a text message without proper examination of flight papers," Hanna added.
Rebuffing an earlier claim that QZ8501 was on an illegal flight prior the crash, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) announced on Saturday that approval had been given for the airline to operate the Surabaya-Singapore route.
"On the Singapore end, Indonesia AirAsia had applied to operate a daily flight between Surabaya and Singapore for Northern Winter Season from 26 October 2014 to 28 March 2015, arriving at Changi Airport at 8.30 am and departing for Surabaya at 2.10 pm (Singapore time)," the statement reads.
Djoko lambasted CAAS, saying the airline was only allowed to fly the route on Mondays, Tuesday, Thursdays and Saturdays, before breaking the rule by single handedly changing the days without the ministry's approval to fly on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
"Normally, the airline would have to firstly obtain approval from the (Indonesian) government before getting the permission from Singapore. This is a clear violation since we never approved the change of days," Djoko said.
As of Sunday, the National Search and Rescue Team (Basarnas) had recovered a total of 34 bodies from the Karimata Strait. Despite an intensive search that has been ongoing for eight days, the team has yet to detect the location of AirAsia flight QZ8501's black box.
The rescue team said that it would continue its search to find the black box on Monday in the northern part of the Java Sea bordering the Karimata Strait, the location where the pilot of the commercial jet last contacted air traffic control in Jakarta.